I guess Punxsutawney Phil wasn’t joking around when he let us know that we had a few more weeks of the cold stuff coming! If you’re like me, you’ve probably become very good friends with your space heater, and have been spending a lot of time watching television. As much as I love living in the past, I am also grateful to be connected enough to the interwebs that my options as a retro loving geek are opened up in so many different ways!
Last year, when it was too hot to go outside, I wrote about The Summer of Amazon Prime, but now that it’s too cold to go outside, I thought I should add some titles for those of us cooped up for the winter. I was thrilled to find that Amazon has added a slew of new titles, some of which I’ve already started reviewing. A lot of these films are on DVD, and while that was another treat to stumble upon, many of TVMs listed are a bit obscure, and this might be the first time they’ve been available for some time. I tried to add links to both the streaming and DVD purchase link, but please forgive me if I missed something!
I think the TV gods have been listening to my prayers, because Amazon has a great selection of films by some of my favorite small screen actresses. For this post, I decided to focus on the ladies who have a nice chunk of their TVM work available for streaming:
Victoria Principal: I’ll be honest, while I always thought Pamela Barnes Ewing was gorgeous, and Victoria was fantastic on Dallas, I never really took a liking to the character. She seemed a little self-righteous and overly emotional (and not in that fun I-should-be-in-drunk-tank way that Sue Ellen so often was). I was always a little distanced from Pamela’s woes. It wasn’t until later, when I started to watch Victoria’s other work that I really understood what a truly fine actress she is. Although it’s not on Amazon Instant Video, I cannot recommend Mistress enough (and it’s on vhs!). Victoria put in an affecting performance as the ex-kept woman on a downward spiral. After that film, I started to seek out more of her work. In 1989 she moved behind the camera, producing the kinds of films that she wanted to appear in. Amazon is offering a nice handful of them:
Naked Lie: This little potboiler finds Pamela as a prosecutor mixed up with a murderous judge. The judge is James Farentino and he’s a sex-fiend. His voracious appetite for the dirty stuff gets him mixed up with a would-be blackmailer, and it very quickly leads to murder. Naked Lie is lots of fun, and Farentino is particularly great. And it's on DVD!
Sparks: The Price of Passion: I did a big ol' spit take when I ran into this one, because I’m still giggling over Ted Wass’ sexy sexiness in Baby Sister (which I really need to do a write up on). In Sparks, Victoria plays the mayor of a small town. Her almost-affair gets her into some hot water, but that doesn’t stop her from getting to the bottom of a strange series of murders that have been plaguing her town. Not great, but a good time waster. Sparks also features a nice appearance from the great Ralph Waite, who we lost recently. And it's on DVD.
The other two Principal movies that are streaming are Abduction, and Dancing in the Dark. I am hoping to get to those soon!
Lindsay Wagner: Who doesn’t love this gorgeous creature? I’ve recently been revisiting the ridiculous but fabulously entertaining Bionic Woman series (on Amazon Instant Video no less), and I’ve been reminded of just how lovely and charming Lindsay is. I'm a big fan of her TVM work as well, and I was thrilled to see a nice chunk of it featured on the site:
Nightmare at Bitter Creek: Any film that mixes the likes of Lindsay Wagner, Joanna Cassidy and Constance McCashin, with a touch of the handsome Tom Skerritt just has to be good right? Definitely. I adore this survivalist flick that pits a group of city woman, and their drunkard cowpoke guide against a bunch of militant racists who only want cleanse ‘Murrica! Surprisingly suspenseful, Nightmare is my favorite of Amazon’s Wagner offerings. You can buy it on DVD as well.
Babies: I saw Babies when it originally aired in 1990, which is funny because I have absolutely no maternal instincts. I don’t remember why I tuned in, but I’m sure I was heavily influenced by the incredible cast, who include Lindsay, Dinah Manoff, Adam Arkin and Marcy Walker (who is quickly becoming a favorite small screen face). This one is all about the different ways modern families grow, or don’t grow, depending on your needs. It offers a few different viewpoints on motherhood and Lindsay is in fine form. And my god, this woman is gorgeous! Babies is on DVD!
Callie and Son and A Child's Cry are also on Amazon Instant Video, and they are on my list!
Barbara Eden: If you’ve ever visited my blog, I am sure you are aware of my unending love for all things Eden. This lovely actress is one of my all time faves, and I am pleased with the offerings available on Amazon Prime:
The Woman Hunter: It's been eons since I saw this movie (on DVD), but I remember it was fun and stylish and Stuart Whitman looked gorgeous. Must see TV!
Return of the Rebels: Such fun fluff! Read my review here. Return is also on DVD.
Visions of Terror: This is another one I saw a long time ago and haven't had the chance to re-visit. Terror (aka Eyes of Terror) is the sequel to a TVM called Visions of Murder, which also starred Eden as a psychic psychologist! There are a few references to the original film (which is on DVD), but I followed it just fine without seeing the original. Eden looks great too.
The Portrait Series: The films Portrait of an Escort, Portrait of a Showgirl and Portrait of Stripper are not related except by the word Portrait (and semi-connected by Lesley Ann Warren who appears in two of the films), but they are great wanna-be tawdry examples of the more exploitative side of the television movie.
Of the three, I think I enjoyed Portrait of an Escort the most. I’m not sure it’s the best in the series, but it’s the one that had me the most engaged in the story. Susan Anspach is a put upon mom working for no money and for a crap boss. Her co-worker suggests she make ends meet by working for a dating service that is almost exactly what it sounds like… a dating service. Susan is able to dodge sleeping with her clients, and, every now and then she meets a decent guy. However, it’s out-of-work actor Tony Bill that catches her fancy. Only, she doesn’t want him to know she’s an escort and he doesn’t want her to know that he’s being kept by an older rich lady. That sounds like some heavy duty web tangling, right? Well, throw in a psychotic stranger who likes to break into Susan’s apartment and cut up her clothes, and you’ve got one great night of entertainment! Portrait is on DVD.
Portrait of a Stripper is a lot like Escort only this one stars Lesley Ann Warren and instead of working as an escort, this single mom makes her money as a stripper. Well, kinda. She’s a good dancer but the breaks are few and far between. It doesn’t help that her dead husband’s parents want their grandson and have set out to start smear campaign against Lesley. A fantastic photographer but low rent detective is put on the case, and check it out, he falls in love with Lesley. I mean, how could he not? I liked this one a lot too. It’s all very romantic, despite the stripping and spying and Lesley is just lovely in the part.
I like Portrait of a Showgirl, but despite the stellar cast of Rita Moreno, Lesley Ann Warren, Dianne Kaye and Tony Curtis, it’s just not as engaging of a film. This is more of a slice-of-lifer and has a lot of energy but lacks whatever oomph it needs to keep up with the other two Portrait films. Still, it’s a fine time waster, and Rita Moreno is worth a watch in anything. This is on DVD.
If you need more Lesley, you can also watch Family of Spies, a mini-series that is currently streaming on Amazon!
I’m telling you… TV movie heaven!